In the mid-1800’s, Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known African American figure on Wall Street. Although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, he was reportedly the richest Black man in the United States, possessing a fortune of $2 million, or in excess of $250 million in today’s currency.
In his book, Prince of Darkness, historian Shane White reveals the larger-than-life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. During his career as a stock broker on Wall Street, Hamilton was the only Black millionaire in New York City.
He used a lot of his fortune to invest in real estate. For example, he paid about $7 million to buy up quite a bit of land and property in areas known today in New York as Astoria and Poughkeepsie.
A victim of racism, he was sarcastically labeled “The Prince of Darkness” because of his success, but it went a lot further than that. In 1863, several white men broke into his house with the intentions of lynching him, but he wasn’t home at the time.
Despite, death threats and attempts to kill him, he went on to live a long, prosperous life. When he died in May 1875, he was about 68-years old and was still considered to be the wealthiest Black man in the United States.